Hello from Nepal!
I’ve been having a wonderful time here; it’s especially wonderful to be traveling with my two kids!
And Nepal is a special place—the people have been very kind, friendly and gentle.
Traveling so far away makes me feel both how large our world is—and how small. I’m struck both by how different people’s lives are from my life at home and how ultimately similar they are.
And I’m struck, too, that we’re all part of the same global eco-system. In Nepal, a beautiful and very poor country, it’s easy to see first hand the damage of increased development: cars spew thick black smoke along the roads where people live. Garbage washes up alongside mountain rivers.
The glaciers in the Himalayas melt a little more each year.
It’s clear that our human actions have consequences—my own actions included. Though I try to buy carbon offsets, I’m aware of the irony of my writing about this after traveling so far on fossil fuels.
So I’m coming back home thinking again about how to live a meaningful life; how to live by my own values; what lessons to take from my travels; and how the deep personal work that I do and that I support my clients in doing is related to our larger social and communal wellbeing.
I’ve been thinking, too, about how important it is that there are systems and rules that look out for all of us even as we have the freedom to develop individually. (The traffic here in Kathmandu also makes me think about this: on the one hand, it’s convenient to drive—we’ve gotten around by car and taxi often; but on the other hand, because there almost no rules—there are no stop signs, no street lights, no one way streets, and very few sidewalks—the result is often chaos, dangerous and unpleasant for pedestrians, and the traffic often comes to a complete stand still at rush hour)
Can we balance our personal and social developments and see it not as a zero sum game or sacrifice, but rather a win-win?
This trip reminds me that even though I don’t know the people I see here, their well being and mine are not separate.
Here are some questions I’ve been asking myself that you might want to ask yourself:
- How does your personal development benefit others?
- Are there times when your personal development and freedom limits others?
- What rules of systems could be put in place so that your personal development and the wellbeing other others were working together instead of against each other?
- Are there times that working to make things better for other people help you feel better and bigger in yourself? Pay some attention to those times.
I’ve also been thinking about Elizabeth Bishop’s wonderful poem of travel, “Questions of Travel,” where she asks “Should we have stayed at home and thought of here?” Here Bishop is writing about Brazil (where she ended up living for more than a decade), but it could almost be Nepal or almost anyplace….
Questions of Travel
There are too many waterfalls here; the crowded streams
hurry too rapidly down to the sea,
and the pressure of so many clouds on the mountaintops
makes them spill over the sides in soft slow-motion,
turning to waterfalls under our very eyes.
– For if those streaks, those mile-long, shiny, tearstains,
aren’t waterfalls yet,
in a quick age or so, as ages go here,
they probably will be.
But if the streams and clouds keep travelling, travelling,
the mountains look like the hulls of capsized ships,
slime-hung and barnacled.
Think of the long trip home.
Should we have stayed at home and thought of here?
Where should we be today?
Is it right to be watching strangers in a play
in this strangest of theatres?
What childishness is it that while there’s a breath of life
in our bodies, we are determined to rush
to see the sun the other way around?
The tiniest green hummingbird in the world?
To stare at some inexplicable old stonework,
inexplicable and impenetrable,
at any view,
instantly seen and always, always delightful?
Oh, must we dream our dreams
and have them, too?
And have we room
for one more folded sunset, still quite warm?
But surely it would have been a pity
not to have seen the trees along this road,
really exaggerated in their beauty,
not to have seen them gesturing
like noble pantomimists, robed in pink.
– Not to have had to stop for gas and heard
the sad, two-noted, wooden tune
of disparate wooden clogs
carelessly clacking over
a grease-stained filling-station floor.
(In another country the clogs would all be tested.
Each pair there would have identical pitch.)
– A pity not to have heard
the other, less primitive music of the fat brown bird
who sings above the broken gasoline pump
in a bamboo church of Jesuit baroque:
three towers, five silver crosses.
– Yes, a pity not to have pondered,
blurr’dly and inconclusively,
on what connection can exist for centuries
between the crudest wooden footwear
and, careful and finicky,
the whittled fantasies of wooden cages
– Never to have studied history in
the weak calligraphy of songbirds’ cages.
– And never to have had to listen to rain
so much like politicians’ speeches:
two hours of unrelenting oratory
and then a sudden golden silence
in which the traveller takes a notebook, writes:
‘Is it lack of imagination that makes us come
to imagined places, not just stay at home?
Or could Pascal have been not entirely right
about just sitting quietly in one’s room?
Continent, city, country, society:
the choice is never wide and never free.
And here, or there… No. Should we have stayed at home,
wherever that may be?
I love that Bishop asks lots of questions but doesn’t answer them….she leaves that for us to do, and allows us to have our answers be complex and multidimensional and changeable.
We have one more day in Nepal—and then a looong trip home…
until next time and with love,